Important Quirks and Features of the Panasonic S1 for Cinematography

On paper the Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) is one of the more exciting mirrorless cameras with professional level video features.

In this article let’s look at a few important quirks and video features of the S1 for cinematography.

Click here to stay updated about new information, workflows and tips about the Panasonic S1.

The Camera Sensor

The Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) is a full frame camera with a 36.0 x 24.0mm sensor. This is what you get:

ResolutionFrame RatesCrop FactorISO Range for Video
4096 x 216023.976, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94 fps1.0100-12800
3840 x 216023.976, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94 fps1.0100-12800
1920 x 108023.976, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94, 100, 119.88 fps1.0100-12800

The S1 has a new mount (for Panasonic), called the L mount. It has a flange focal distance of mm, so you can adapt lenses from other mounts to this system, as well as use existing lenses made specifically for the L-mount.

Ergonomics

The Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) is fully dust and moisture sealed (weather sealed) with a magnesium alloy body.

Currently 6 RF lenses are weather sealed. The exceptions are the RF 35mm f1.8 Macro & 24-240mm.

The cool feature of this camera that the Nikon Z6 or Sony a7III lacks is a “semi” articulating flip LCD screen.

Whenever you need to get down low, or if you need to monitor video while the camera is up against a wall (which happens in small rooms all the time!) this is a godsend.

Unfortunately though, it’s not a full-swivel screen like the one the GH5 has so not so useful for vloggers.

Panasonic has also not tried to make the camera as small as possible, so it’s way better to hold than say, an a7III, for long periods.

There is a dedicated record button on the back and two mode dials for shutter and aperture. The rear dial can be used for ISO, and there is an ISO toggle-button on the top panel as well.

You also have direct access to White Balance from the top.

Then there’s the joystick. Let’s face it, it’s not especially useful for video work.

Finally, there are enough customizable buttons to get everything important at your fingertips. So on the whole, I think the camera is fine ergonomically. And Panasonic menus have always been one of the better ones.

The Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) is a bulky for a mirrorless camera. Here’s some perspective:

CameraWeight (grams)
Panasonic S1899 grams no battery
Canon EOS R660 grams with battery
Nikon Z6585 grams no battery
Sony a7 III650 grams with battery
Canon 5D Mark IV800 grams no battery
Nikon D850915 grams no battery

That’s a 50% increase in weight, and is in DSLR category. The camera has to be this large to dissipate heat generated from the sensor to record 4K 60 fps. No other full frame camera does this yet.

Media Card

There are two card slots:

  1. XQD Card slot
  2. SD Card slot. It supports both UHS-1 and UHS-II class cards, though you might want to get UHS-II cards.

You can write to both cards as a backup, or setup relay recording.

Battery life

The Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) has a battery life of up to 2.5 hours on a charge. Continuously, you can record for about 75 minutes in AVCHD/1080 mode.

For 4K the figures will be less. That’s not a very impressive performance for such a large and bulky camera.

A USB cable is included which will allow you to charge a battery via the camera. You also get an AC adapter with the camera. That’s a welcome addition!

Video Specs and Features

Here are some important things you need to know about video on the Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) in its default configuration:

FeatureUp to 4K 30 fps4K 50 and 60 fps
Data rates100 Mbps (72 Mbps)150 Mbps (72 Mbps)
Color8-bit 4:2:0 (10-bit 4:2:0)8-bit 4:2:0 (10-bit 4:2:0)
Recording LimitNo limit30 minute limit
Crop factor1.01.56
CodecH.264 (H.265)H.264 (H.265)
HDMI Output8-bit 4:2:28-bit 4:2:0

The internal codec isn’t what one would call professional. Also note, unlike the Canon EOS R and Nikon Z6, the S1 only outputs 8-bit 4:2:2 via HDMI.

For slow motion shooters, the S1 has a class leading 180 fps when the frame rate is set to 29.97p.

However, with a paid update, you can improve things.

Introducing the DMW-SFU2 Upgrade

By paying for the SFu2 upgrade ($199), you get the following:

  1. 14+ stops of dynamic range with V-Log
  2. 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording in 4K up to 30 fps
  3. 10-bit 4:2:2 external recording for all modes up to 4K 60fps
  4. In-camera LUTs
  5. Waveform monitor
  6. 24-bit 96 KHz audio using the DMW-XLR1 adapter

Here are instructions on how to enable it:

I find it really odd Panasonic continues to charge extra for V-Log. I really don’t see why you need to irritate your customers by asking them to spend $199 over a $2,500 camera (8%). Why not just give it free with every camera and divide the cost among all sales?

Anyway, if you’re serious about video, you will most likely want to opt for this upgrade.

Autofocus and Image Stabilization

The S1 has autofocus, but it’s not in the same class as a Sony a7 III or Canon EOS R. I’m sure as the months go by Panasonic will release firmware updates to make things better. In my experience though, no manufacturer has drastically improved video autofocus performance from the first firmware version – but who knows?

One of the cool features of the Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) is it has 5-axis image stabilization (IBIS); which means, no matter what lens you put on the camera, even with adapters, it will have some form of image stabilization. That’s a great feature.

The Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) has a level gauge.

One negative feature is the shutter speed only goes as low as 1/25 (the range for video is 1/16,000 – 1/25), so it’ll be hard to create strobe-like effects in camera. However, as with other Panasonic cameras, you get a flicker-reduction setting when you’re faced with flickering lights.

Color and Profiles

The Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) is capable of a white Balance range of 2500-10000K in 100K increments.

When it comes to Photo Styles, you have the usual suspects:

  • Standard
  • Vivid
  • Natural
  • Flat
  • Landscape
  • Portrait
  • Monochrome
  • Cinelike D
  • Cinelike V
  • Like709
  • Standard (HLG) / Monochrome (HLG)
  • Like2100

In addition, you get 10 slots under “My Photo Style” to create your own presets. One advantage with this camera is you can save your settings to a card and transfer them to another S1 (S1R and S1 are not interchangeable).

For me, the Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) is an exciting addition and kick in the pants to the mirrorless video industry. It does alienate existing Panasonic MFT customers who have invested in the GH4 and GH5, and it makes it tough for Panasonic to stand out.

Read next: The Best Lenses for the Panasonic S1 and S1H for Video

What do you think? Is the Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) a serious option for your video work?

Click here to stay updated about new information, workflows and tips about the Panasonic S1.

One reply on “Important Quirks and Features of the Panasonic S1 for Cinematography”

  1. I still don’t get why they don’t have VFR for slow mo. It’s quite frustrating when trying to shoot in 120 or 180 but find out that there’s only the four options and it’s all auto exposure.

    Great article!

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